By Stephanie Abney
After Fostering 125 Children, Arizona Mom Gets Dream Job at the Fair
“Dreams Delivered” is the theme for this year’s Arizona State Fair, and, according to MaryEllen Simmons, it’s an apt description of the job she’s had for the last seven years. Anytime she can be involved with arts, crafts, sewing and people, she is in her element; she explains, so, working as the Fair’s Superintendent of Sewing and Crafts has truly been a dream delivered.
MaryEllen, who joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a teenager, now lives in the Morning Sun Ward, Queen Creek South Stake. She and her husband, Duane, have 10 children and 32 grandchildren. In addition, as foster parents, over the course of 30 years, the Simmonses cared for more than 125 foster children.
As the children filled their home, so did the craft projects.
“I am a crafter. My specialty is crafting with kids. Messy projects are the most fun,” says Sister Simmons.
She also loves to sew.
“I sew every day of my life. It relaxes me if I am stressed,” MaryEllen says. “I never travel overnight without a sewing machine. After all, I might have an idle moment,” she laughs.
MaryEllen and her children have entered projects in the state fair for many years. One year, at the fair, when MaryEllen was demonstrating how to tie quilts, a manager observed her. As a result, she was offered the job as the Superintendent of Sewing and Crafts.
“I was stunned and thrilled. Who wouldn’t want a job at the fair?” says MaryEllen.
She has been the superintendent for seven years and has been in charge of the arts, crafts and sewing at 11 county fairs in Maricopa and Pinal counties.”
This year, Sister Simmons also will oversee the leather, woodworking and culinary entries as well as those in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) category.
“I get to sleep in a trailer on the fairgrounds for three weeks, smelling all the good fair food. I love seeing what people make. I love everything about the fair, including a chance to interact with other people,” she says.
A published writer and public speaker, MaryEllen currently serves as her ward’s librarian and, with Duane, as a prison ministry worker.
“We love that calling and hope to never ever be released,” she says. “We are assigned to a man in Eloy. We visit regularly and write letters, too.”
They keep in touch with another man they worked with, who was transferred to Chino, California, this year.
“We go to Chino every couple months to visit him,” Sister Simmons says.
She also travels to as many fairs as possible in Arizona and California, to see the latest and to get ideas for her “dream job,”
For more information, see: https://azstatefair.com/